Brexit Bill

Boris Johnson is braced for a Lords defeat on his Brexit bill amid disquiet among Tory peers over the decision to strip support for child refugees from the legislation. Labour peer Alf Dubs has tabled a new amendment to ensure protections for child refugees remain in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) – a promise made by Theresa May but noticeably absent from Mr Johnson’s new bill. Despite being summoned to meet Home Office ministers and No 10 officials this week, Lord Dubs, who fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport, was undeterred in his efforts to ensure the right of family reunion for unaccompanied children. The Labour peer said a number of Tory peers – including ministers – were unhappy about removing the commitment from the bill and may abstain to help the opposition next week. Lord Dubs told The Independent: “All I can say is that there are quite a lot of Conservative members of the Lords who are unhappy about this. They won’t vote or speak but they may abstain, which will help. “Some of them are government ministers and they are trying to lobby the government behind the scenes. “It’s interesting how many Conservative peers are quietly supporting the amendment … clearly the majority is not with the government.”

No deal

MINISTERS have discreetly restarted no-deal planning meetings in case Brussels stonewalls in negotiations over a post-Brexit trade deal, Whitehall sources said yesterday. The Cabinet’s EU Exit Committee, chaired by Michael Gove, met last week to begin discussing preparations for the talks breaking down ahead of the end of the UK’s transition out of Brussels regulations at the end of December. Boris Johnson has ruled out any extension of the transition period beyond the end of the year. His deadline is soon to be enshrined in law by his EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill. One minister present at the committee meeting on Thursday said the gathering was held to consider what happens should Brussels “fail to grasp we really are going at the end of the year.” And the Prime Minister’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings was reported to have told a regular meeting of aides on Friday: “We are not bluffing on the no extension.” EU chiefs have repeatedly attacked Mr Johnson’s deadline as too tight for the complex negotiations to be concluded.  Ministers fear the bloc could be digging in to try to stall the talks for as long as possible to maximise the pressure on the Prime Minister.  Official trade talks, led by Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost, are set to begin next month after the UK formally leaves the EU on January 31.


More than a thousand European financial firms have applied to enter Britain despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, data has revealed. The Financial Conduct Authority received a total of 1,441 applications between 2018 and 2019 from firms to use its temporary permission regime, which it put in place to allow European companies to operate after Brexit while they seek full authorisation. Of that number, 1,000 appeared to be seeking permission to set up an office in the UK for the first time, according to Bovill, a regulatory consultancy that sought the data from the FCA under a Freedom of Information request.

Trade talks

With the EU and the UK seemingly at odds over key trade deal terms, is there any common ground as both sides prepare for eight months of talks? A deepening fault line is emerging between the UK and European Union over how far Britain must continue to follow some EU rules after Brexit in return for a basic free-trade agreement (FTA), officials preparing for the coming Brexit negotiations have warned. Key EU member states, including France and the Netherlands are “digging in” on the vexed question of the so-called “level playing field” to ensure fair competition which the EU has said is a prerequisite for a trade deal. With both sides internally starting to sketch out their positions before trade negotiations formally begin in March, UK and EU sources familiar with internal discussions said it was already clear that a gulf in expectations was emerging on both sides.

BORIS JOHNSON’S team is set to clampdown on Cabinet leaks ahead of crunch Brexit trade talks with the EU next month, after a special adviser was caught briefing the press last week. Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief special adviser, is believed to be clamping down on minister’s and their aides who leak to the press as the Government prepares to launch trade talks with the EU. Ministers could risk losing their jobs if caught, as No10 try to prevent a repeat of the media storm surrounding Theresa May’s cabinet meetings – where details of cabinet discussions and infighting were frequently leaked.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call for deeper investment ties between Britain and Africa at a summit for leaders of 21 African countries on Monday that comes days before his country will leave the European Union. After securing Britain’s departure from the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc, on Jan. 31, Johnson is keen to develop business ties with countries outside Europe. At the summit in London, Johnson will call for Britain to be the “investment partner of choice” for Africa. He will highlight deals worth billions of pounds with countries on the continent, underlining the roles British companies are playing in providing anything from smart street lighting in Nigeria to environmentally friendly breweries in Kenya.


Boris Johnson is preparing for a showdown with businesses after sources revealed a new bid to clamp down on immigration once Britain leaves the EU. The government is planning to introduce new immigration laws on day one after the Brexit transition period ends in 2021, according to the Sunday Telegraph . It would see the Downing St clamp down on the number of people from the EU coming in and out of the country from January 1 next year. Mr Johnson has promised that his government will introduce a points based system, similar to the one used in Australia. But business group the CBI have previously warned that companies would need “at least two years to adapt to any new immigration system”.

PRITI Patel is to rush forward new border restrictions on low-skilled migrants to ensure the rules are in place by the end of the year. The Home Secretary will tell ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street on Tuesday that she wants the Australian-style points-based entry system in place by the end of the UK’s transition out of EU regulations, due to end on December 31. Her proposal will accelerate the post-Brexit border shake up by two years.

Ministers will impose tough new restrictions on low-skilled immigrants from the EU immediately after the Brexit transition ends. The government will not delay its overhaul of the rules beyond January 2021, despite previous indications from Theresa May that there could be a two-year standstill to avoid hitting businesses. Home Secretary Priti Patel is due to present a paper on the shape of the new scheme to Cabinet this week.

Boris Johnson is drawing up plans to impose strict new restrictions on EU immigration by 2021, two years earlier than promised by Theresa May. New proposals are understood to be in the works to implement restrictions on lower-skilled EU migrants on the first day after the Brexit transition period ends, removing a temporary extension of current rules to 2023 sought by business groups. Priti Patel, the home secretary, is expected to present the blueprint to cabinet this week, which would give businesses and workers less than a year to prepare for a major overhaul of the immigration system.

Foreign aid

British aid money will no longer be spent on exploiting coal abroad, Boris Johnson will announce on Monday in a bid to shore up his green credentials. The Prime Minister will ban the use of UK funding to pay for mining or burning coal in developing nations. The move comes after persistent claims Britain is “outsourcing” climate emissions by reducing its own levels of CO2 while importing goods from abroad which produce high emissions in other countries. Green groups welcomed the announcement but called on the Government to go further by withdrawing funding from oil and gas as well. Mr Johnson will today host 16 leaders from Africa, including the presidents of Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya, at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London.


Boris Johnson condemned Vladimir Putin over the ‘brazen’ Salisbury attack as the leaders held face-to-face talks today. The PM warned the Russian president there is no prospect of normal relations between the countries until Moscow stops ‘undermining the safety of our citizens and collective security’. The bruising encounter between the pair, the first since Mr Johnson took over in Downing Street, came as they attended a summit in Berlin. The gathering is to discuss the fate of Libya, where the UK has accused Russia and Turkey of causing chaos by pursuing a ‘proxy’ conflict.


Cervical cancer can be eliminated in this country thanks to advances in screening and vaccination, the NHS has declared. It is the first time the health service has said that a form of cancer can be beaten to the extent that cases become extremely rare. Public health officials described the announcement as “truly momentous”. A more sensitive and reliable form of cervical cancer screening has already been introduced for all women who undergo smear tests in England. This, combined with the development of a vaccine against the virus that is known to cause almost all cases of the disease, has resulted in increased confidence that the fight against cervical cancer is being won.

Sky News
Cervical cancer has the potential to be eliminated thanks to upgraded screening and jabs for children, NHS experts say. The health service has completed its rollout of a new screening method which sees cervical samples first checked for the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancer and can also cause cancers in other genital areas, such as the vagina, vulva, penis and anus. HPV is a common infection spread through close skin-to-skin contact, usually during sex or oral sex.

A NEW cervical cancer test could prevent one in four cases — and experts reckon the disease could be wiped out. Scientists believe the new screening method, coupled with vaccines for children, could one day see the end of the killer in Britain. The NHS has finished its roll-out of the test in which samples are checked for the human papillomavirus behind almost all cases. Only those with the HPV are examined for abnormal cells. Signs of infection can be spotted earlier before cancer develops. Previously, only samples showing possible cell changes were tested. Experts say the method could prevent 600 of the 2,500 new cervical cancer cases every year in England.  Alongside the screening, all 12 and 13-year-olds are offered a vaccine against HPV, which is spread through close skin-to-skin contact — usually sexual — and can cause other cancers in male and female genital areas.


The RAF is planning a fighter jet that can fly at more than 4,000mph and be controlled by virtual reality helmet. The £100million Tempest stealth aircraft is being designed to replace the Royal Air Force’s long-serving Typhoon, and will enter service in 2035. The hypersonic aircraft will be able to fly at more than Mach 5, three times as fast as existing aircraft, as reported by the Daily Star. The defence companies behind it – BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo’s UK arm and MBDA – are due to present further proposals to ministers at the end of 2020.

Child abuse

The MP for a town at the centre of a sex abuse scandal criticised a police force yesterday for being unable to identify an officer who investigated a complaint by a child victim. Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, also called for “dramatic changes” at South Yorkshire police after an investigation by the official police watchdog. Ms Champion said she found it difficult to believe that a police officer mentioned in the report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) could not be identified. The report, which comes after a five-year investigation, said that police had failed to protect the complainant, exposing her to abuse.

Police officers who ignored the sexual abuse of underage girls by Pakistani grooming gangs should be named and shamed, campaigners demanded last night. The demand came after a leaked report failed to identify a key investigator in the Rotherham scandal, which saw at least 1,400 children preyed on between 1997 and 2013. The police watchdog has upheld a complaint that a chief inspector admitted to the father of a victim that abuse was ignored due to fears of increasing ‘racial tensions’. He is said to have claimed ‘with it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out’ or the town ‘would erupt’.


Ministers are doing battle over whether to go ahead with a £2billion tunnel under the historic Stonehenge site. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is believed to be committed to the scheme, which aims to remove a notorious bottleneck on the A303 from London to the south-west. However, the Treasury is thought to be concerned that the project is not good value for money. There are already alternative routes to the west country on the M4 and M5. The government has launched a review of strategic roads.

Road travel

The AA deems smart motorways so dangerous that it will not let its breakdown crews stop in them to help stranded motorists. Instead, staff must head to a ‘safe location’ and wait for the driver’s vehicle to be moved there by Highways England. An AA patrolman confirmed the policy in a BBC documentary on the controversial roads, which see the hard shoulder transformed into a normal lane. Families whose loved ones were killed on smart motorways have now applied for a judicial review challenging the system.

Dangerous drivers who cause deaths on the roads face life imprisonment under Boris Johnson’s plans for longer sentences. The maximum sentence for causing death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone will be raised from 14 years to life, making the offence equivalent to manslaughter. A separate offence, causing death by driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs, will also rise from 14 years to life. The crackdown on “soft justice” for killer drivers has been dubbed Violet-Grace’s law by campaigners after a four-year-old girl was killed by a speeding stolen car being driven at 83 mph in a 30mph zone.

Rail travel

Being forced to provide a minimum rail service during strikes is like ‘slavery’, a union boss has claimed. Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said proposed legislation making industrial action unlawful unless a basic service was provided was a ‘form of forced labour’. The plans were unveiled last month after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union staged a 27-day walkout in December over the long-running row about the role of guards on trains.


Britain’s biggest construction companies have warned Boris Johnson that scrapping HS2 would cause “irreparable damage” to the sector and would jeopardise an “industrial renaissance” in the Midlands and northern England. The chief executives of Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Morgan Sindall, Costain, Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine are among signatories of a letter to the prime minister seen by The Times urging him to approve construction of the full high-speed rail project. HS2 is due to be a 250mph railway line that links London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

BBC News
Building the high-speed rail link HS2 could cost up to £106bn, a government-commissioned review has said. The unpublished report, seen by the Financial Times, says there is “considerable risk” that estimated costs could rise by another 20%. In 2015, HS2 was set to cost £56bn. The review also recommends pausing the second phase of the project while experts look at whether conventional lines could help link Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds instead. Some £8bn has already been spent on the project, which will connect London, the Midlands and northern England using trains capable of travelling at 250mph.


British holidaymaker in Thailand is feared to be the first western victim of the Chinese flu-like coronavirus. Paramedics raced Ash Shorley, 32, to a Phuket hospital after being struck down by a pneumonia-like infection spread to his lungs. He had to be transported from Koh Phi Phi island by boat as damage to his lungs stopped him from being airlifted as he would not cope with high-altitude travel. According to The Sun, Phuket doctors found his symptoms were similar to the dreaded Chinese coronavirus, which spread in recent weeks to Thailand. Doctors have put pipes into Ash’s back and drained about 2kg of fluid from his collapsed lungs. His parents Chris and Julie, both 55, are by his side.

A UK tourist fighting for his life in Thailand is feared to be the first western victim of the Chinese flu-like coronavirus. Ash Shorley, 32, was rushed to hospital in Phuket after a pneumonia-style bug infected both lungs while he was on Koh Phi Phi island. He had to be ferried by specialised seaplane because his damaged lungs could not cope with high altitude travel. Doctors in Phuket found his symptoms are consistent with the Chinese coronavirus, whose spread has triggered fears of a pandemic. More than 40 Chinese have officially contracted the illness with two deaths reported. But it is feared the Chinese authorities are hiding the true scale of the problem

China on Monday reported a mysterious SARS-like virus had spread across the country, including to Beijing, raising concerns as millions begin trips for the Lunar New Year. A day after state authorities said the virus was “controllable”, officials said a third person was confirmed to have died and there were nearly 140 new cases.  The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. In Wuhan, the central city where the coronavirus was first discovered, 136 new cases were found over the weekend, the local health  commission said, without giving details about the person who died.

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